I have a lot of opinions on race and class, and I don’t know that any of them are solid, but I do think that both issues are the core America’s problems. There is a lot to say about both and other people can write in detail about both better than I can, so I won’t. But I will share a few observations from today.
Observation one. There is a “check’s cashed today” / money lending / whatever place just down the street from me. I haven’t really noticed it until today. As I passed I saw posters along all three walls, I just glanced but one thing stuck out to me, each poster had one person on it and only one poster had a white person. What’s more the other people were holding shopping bags and money and checks, while the young white man was holding a book. There’s a message there. But I’m not blaming the advertisers, I think that would be too easy. I am wondering what that says about the state of race and class in America. Don’t believe me? Look at a website from one of those companies like The Money Tree or at EZPaydayCash.com, go ahead… find the white person.
Observation two. I caught the end of Bill Maher’s show Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO (a perk of Travis & Monica’s hospitality). One topic was about immigrants learning English. There was the usual arguments pro and con. Pro English shared the usual boring and wrong headed ideas like “my parent’s had to learn and they did” and “it is important and steals valuable resources from our country to cater to others.” The con argument of course was the well thought out “it’s racist.” (side note: it was interesting was how angry the reaction against calling it racist was, when clearly the line is blurry so there is no need for righteous indignation) What was more interesting to me was that this wasn’t approached at all from a class perspective. Whether or not it is racist to decide everyone must speak English, it is certainly classist. The fact is that if you are in this country, don’t speak English, and are poor, English is not an option. There isn’t enough time in the day, not to mention the money that language lessons cost, not to mention the time and energy it takes. What’s more, if you are raising a family you need to spend time with them and save money for children’s college because it is getting more and more expensive while scholarships and grants are getting harder to get. Even if you are middle class you might not have the luxuries of time and money, both of which are needed to learn a new language. The odds are already against the middle and lower class, why make things harder? And further, what are the penalties for not learning English? No job? That doesn’t seem like it would solve anything does it?
I don’t think that Americans think about race in the right way, anyone who’s looked and thought about what they’ve seen can tell you it isn’t as polar as people want to make it. And I know that most Americans don’t think about class, period. I am not saying that I have answers, I don’t, but I think it is time we all started to think about and talk about both issues again. Especially class and what it means to all of us.